The reason Kaz Hirai's feigned interest in Riiiiiiiiiiiidge Racer cultivated such a long-lasting meme is because it's genuinely hard to muster up that kind of frothy-mouth enthusiasm for the once great series. Ridge Racer is simply Ridge Racer, and despite chipping in a new iteration within the first few months of every major console launch since 2004 there's always been a remarkable inability to innovate and evolve the series.
It's Ridge Racer! That pretty much encapsulates everything about the game. Ridge Racer 3D is the series' vintage gameplay spread across some classic tracks from the franchise, which means the roads of Downtown Rave City must be more beaten than the M25 by now. You drift around corners by letting off the accelerator, spinning the wheels and putting your foot down. Fictional cars use impossible physics to glide effortlessly around the most rigid of bends, and you'll always start in last place no matter what.
It's Ridge Racer! But with the addition of 3D support, as you might expect from the title, which works nicely when you first start playing but subsequently starts to induce a light sense of nausea after thirty minutes spent watching little white road dividing lines scroll directly into your brain. That's more the fault of 3D technology rather than Namco itself - their 3D implementation is nicely done and not too overstated - but playing limbo with the 3D slider definitely becomes more compulsive the longer you play.
It's Ridge Racer! With the option to use the 3DS' StreetPass to exchange ghost data with people you come across when, say, on the Tube or in an ASDA car park. This might be a novel touch, depending on whether consumers take to it, but it would probably be far easier to just let you download these from online leaderboards at your leisure. I'm not entirely convinced I'm going to run into anybody with Ridge Racer 3D ghost data in their bag during my daily trip to Gregg's, but we'll have to wait and see what the future holds.
It's Ridge Racer! Only without any online play whatsoever, which does feel like a glaring omission. For your lot you get your meat-and-potatoes Grand Prix, a Quick Tour mode where you group together a bunch of tracks like an iPod playlist, and your usual mix of single race options. Cars are unlocked by completing races, though there are no customisation options.
It's Ridge Racer! Which means you'll get guff like "you're an amazing driver! Any chance I could get you to teach me some of your tricks?" barked at you by a female announcer every six seconds. And let's not forget those moments when you're going down a big straight bit of road and then a helicopter will fly up in front of you. The franchise wouldn't be almost two decades old if its basic drift-heavy formula wasn't fun, however, and it's still much too easy to find yourself clearing off big chunks of the campaign in a single sitting.
Riiiiiiiiiiiidge Racer! There's very little to see or do here that you haven't done before, but if it's a good few years since you last picked up one in the series (6, perhaps) you'll be able to extract a good amount of enjoyment from this latest offering. Despite the cynicism, though, it's hard to imagine what could be added, and you only need take a sideways glance at the reception to Ridge Racer: Unbounded's announcement to see that taking the series in a different direction might not necessarily be the answer. Namco clearly isn't going to any effort to add anything to the formula with Ridge Racer 3DS, but maybe there was just nothing wrong with Ridge Racer to begin with.
Ridge Racer 3D is due for release for 3DS on March 25.